Years ago before I got back into running I participated in race walking. Proper race walking form often draws puzzled looks from the spectators unfamiliar with this sport. Arms pumping and hips exaggeratedly swiveling, it is much more intense than you would imagine. When competing, the athlete must maintain such control so that the back toe does not leave the ground until the heel of the front foot touches the ground or risk being disqualified from the race. And yes, they have judges that watch those things.
When first introduced to this sport, I gained my instruction from an expert and paired up with another newbie to begin our training. The form was very awkward and took a good bit of concentration, but we were so excited to begin that we proudly returned to our starting point having gone quite a bit farther than we had been instructed. Little did we know that our pride would soon be turned to sorrow upon waking the following day with every muscle below our waists in extreme pain. Pain relievers and hot showers getting us through those first few days, we were hooked on this new workout.
As soon as I felt I had developed my form so as not to completely embarrass myself in front of those with more experience, I began to enter the local competitions. One particular course offered the opportunity to achieve my fastest time to date – it ran downhill from the start to a bridge that stretched in a long, straight, level line until you turned for another short downhill to the finish. Throughout my training and competitions, I repeatedly heard the name of a man who was the best race walker in the area, and I had the chance to meet him on this course. I set my goal on keeping up with him and winning the women’s division.
The course proved to be everything I had hoped for. I kept pace with the leader and was feeling so confident as we entered the downhill to the finish that I entertained the idea I could beat him and be the overall winner. Nearing the finish line I could hear the small crowd cheering and I gave it everything I had. It’s a miracle that I didn’t trip us both because we crossed the finish line with me on his heels. Literally. He won the race with our times separated by only seconds. I was feeling pretty proud about it until I learned that he was 71 years old. I was in my early 40’s….
When we begin this walk with God many things seem awkward. Onlookers may appear puzzled at our new form if they are unfamiliar with Him and His ways. Learning this new walk can be intense at times and require a good bit of concentration. Some days we run ahead as if everything is easy. Other days we feel as if every move hurts and we wonder if we can continue. We are happy to practice and when the pressure is on, to give it our all. We see others that seem to have mastered this walk and we try to keep up with them. Occasionally this causes us to stumble. We are here to practice together, help each other, and cheer each other on. But our eyes are to be fixed on Him.
My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8
I left that race with a new personal record, a medal, and a t-shirt. Today, I don’t remember how fast I finished the race. The medal and t-shirt are long gone. But I do remember the satisfaction of giving it everything I had and finishing well.
That’s what I want when I stand face to face with Jesus. To have followed so hard after Him it felt as if I were on his heels. If I do that, I will finish well.